tv The Communicators CSPAN March 13, 2010 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
and staying focused on the need to make the american economy as strong as it can be. that is the business that brought me here on this unexpected journey to washington. it is the responsibility of everyone sent here to serve our country. we can do better. i challenge my colleagues and the president to do just that. thank you very much for listening. >> this week on "the communicators," a discussion on facebook. our guest is their public policy director, tim sparapani. >> on your screen is tim sparapani, the public policy director for facebook. can you give us a snapshot of what facebook is? >> one of the fastest-growing communication tools out there, six years old, it could not be more open and connected.
we provide people with a free tool whereby they can provide information with anyone, anywhere, anytime. it has turned into a fabulous success. so far we have over 400 million active users worldwide. >> what countries' do not from it -- permit facebook? >> often we are locked in china. regularly in viet nam as of november last year. this is not a company with any political agenda whatsoever. we are a vehicle for communication of users. iwhatever power as users want to talk about, that is what we do, allowed to take place. -- allow it to take place.
it is unusual that a country would block their own people. >> how many employees? >> a bit over 1200. a dramatic growth spurt, we still think of ourselves as a start up. a true silicon valley success story. we are part of a long-term process in the valley where innovation brings exciting new tools for people to explore the world around them. hopefully we are taking it to the next that. >> facebook recently opened its washington office. you are the public policy director. why did they feel a need to have a presence in washington? >> we have stood on the shoulders of the giants that came before us. i think that we are also the next step in the washington, dc process.
we saw microsoft come to washington really after they had been embroiled in some difficulties based on antitrust complaints. they were not a tremendously establish office until that moment occurred. in some people's minds, they have the staying in washington for the technology community. google learned from the microsoft experience. get there before we are in trouble. it took the white house -- it took them years before they had a washington office. facebook learned from both of these companies. we were here as of our fifth anniversary. i think we have taken the position that it is important for us to translate silicon valley to washington and vice versa.
these are not places that often communicate, and when they do they speak in different languages. almost like english and mandarin. we stand as the intermediary in washington to make that communication go back and forth. the advantage is that we are able to help washington. to a small innovation company, they are going down the pike. as a company they can understand the nuances of social norms, longstanding public policy, the law, in people's feelings about four questions of the day. >> recently -- cecilia kan is also joining us from "the washington post."
her bosses on the board of facebook, we should mention -- her boss is on the board of facebook, we should mention. here is something that dick durbin had to say. >> we ask facebook, they replied by saying they have no business operations in china or the rest of the world. they are young start of, influence is limited. we do not have the resources to devote to membership. here are the facts. facebook has more than foreign to many users, the second- biggest website in the world. facebook has over 1000 employees, hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues, and is worth billions. it is hardly a mom and pop organization and they
acknowledge that they deal in censorship. "when context from a certain jurisdiction violates to local laws, facebook may take it at that content. >> that is a lot to respond to by senator durbin. we have no data stored in china. we have no servers. we have the staff. we do not sell. the staff of senator durbin made it clear that this would be the dominant point of conversation. on the second point, senator
byrd and talks about avoiding the global network initiative. an idea, for those who are not familiar, human rights organizations and companies, only a few have joined so far. they are without an executive director. they have never had one. they have never had staff. so far what it is is principles on paper designed to help companies navigate these difficult moments. facebook has, so far, decided to put its energy directly into talking the government. we want to be able to use our
communications tool. we are skeptical the notion that they're on their own without a staff or technical director and cannot influence china, vietnam, indonesia, or even three -- turkey. just save the new markets and allow people to communicate. we are waiting for the senate, the obama administration, to act. we are hopeful that with their employment that we can succeed. the most popular place for that energy, talk about how new our
public policy is, i am one of three people and unfortunately i cannot be flying all around the world to open these markets. i have to do it from here in washington. we have met together to talk about these issues months before the hearing. google, microsoft, other companies like that, in order to do business in china had to make a very difficult decision.
in response to the inquiry we said the opposite. weather is a lot in place, where there is a report from one of our producers going back to a company regarding infringing content, we work with the law of that country. let me give you a concrete idea and how it is different from the center ring discussion that was taken to mean. in germany, austria, 30, 40, 50 years of history of having that
one in place. >> so, when some of our users have been to see contents. we take down the infringing content, but always after our users this with their bare hands on facebook. very different from what other companies have been forced to do a round world. i think that the senator misunderstood the important of the letter -- importance of the letter.
>> with 400 million users around the world, your story is a gross and narrative in washington about 70% of the users being abroad. what is your response ability? even though you have no operations in china, not many broaden, 400 million users is bigger than the population of north america. what do you believe that your responsibility is in this debate? on how companies should have their own efforts. if there should be responsibility. >> an important question. candidly, i do not think we have an answer yet. we do bear a responsibility, beginning with the notion that we are going to provide a robust communications tool that is
open, free, and does not make decisions about political views, religious views, cultural or ethnic bias. we allow people to share with people what they want to share and how they want to share it. that is the beginning of the conversation. if you asked within 1200 items what the responsibility is, everyone would have a slightly different answer. hard to think about the company like that. we do feel a responsibility to allow people to communicate. there is still a responsibility to knock down laws that require it as a condition of doing business. let me give you a bizarre example that is confronting us right now. one that people in washington would find shocking. in australia, a first world country where we think we have tremendous consistency between the united states and australia in terms of social norms,
values, and systems, there is real talk about putting in a full force censorship regime. we do have business operations in australia. staff on the ground. servicers. contrast that with china. we are in a vigorous debate right now with australia, as well as other technology companies, we are trying to get the government not to take this down. we think that it would put australia outside of the balance of modern communications in society, erecting barriers. barriers that truly create walls around consumers. so, if we have a responsibility, it is to knock down artificial barriers, eradicating barriers between countries with communication. we take that responsibility
seriously. we think that these proposals are wrongheaded. >> i guess i am confused a little bit. rule on the one hand is saying that they do not agree with censorship -- google on the one hand is saying that they do not agree with censorship in china and they will pullout. it should be said that they have not yet pulled out. microsoft says that they do not like censorship, you have to play by the rules of the country you are in. so, i feel -- where do you fit? are you more towards googled? microsoft? >> right now they are still saying the same things. ruble has not yet taken the step of stopping the censorship -- google has not yet taken the
step was sponsoring -- stopping the censorship. there's no question that facebook wants to be able to provide the rule all over the world, including china. a huge market. residents in china are using our service because they have been able to evade the blocking software from the chinese government. we are excited about that. do we want to be in china? any company would want to be. any major technology company out of silicon valley has tried it at one point or another. will we be successful? i am not sure. i do not know what kind of a cultural shift it would take to make that happen. that is part of the ongoing dialogue. from my example in australia, even countries where you think the ground is stable and the social norms and laws are stable enough to allow free flow of communication, there can be an
erosion. i think that these are always evolving. facebook hopes in the future to be able to do this, where everyone can communicate how much, whenever they want, however much they want. >> you are adding two more policy positions in washington? >> correct. >> what will those people do? what are the issues they will be working on? is this a response to things going on in washington right now? >> we are very excited to be adding more staff, trust me. because we keep getting asked to do things, talking about international communities. my background is in privacy of speech. i could spend 24 hours per day, seven days per week, talking about just of those things for facebook.
in beijing in discussion and debate, reform legislators have discussed other issues as they evolve. so, we are going to get an administrative person to make our office more efficient. the second position is a more senior position, allowing people to focus on state government actions, particularly state legislation. interfacing directly with consumer protection. we really want to hear from various groups about how facebook is seen on the consumer side. with ongoing long-term dialogue with a variety of groups. but we need to do with more formally and regularly. i think that this is probably the beginning of a long term. looking at our office relative to any of the other ones here in washington, we are a tiny
fraction. i do not know the exact numbers, but we have to be one-tenth of the size. >> was a difficult to convince those folks to boost your staff? apple has only one person here. a reflection of their attitude toward these issues. microsoft has a big office now. i think you're taking your office to five people, right? was that a hard sell to the folks in california? or is there a recognition that you are being misunderstood? >> absolutely it was a hard sell, i will tell you why. senator durbin talk about us, led this -- disagreed with him. we have a desperate need for more engineers. anyone that can do the technical thing to make facebook
faster, cleaner, better, that is the energy of a company that feels like a startup. communicating the message is about that company and what it means, kind of a secondary question. every staff person in washington or talking about policy is not someone helping to build the backbone of this communications tool. there is some reticence. as i said, there is always going to be this sense in silicon valley that washington does not understand how companies are made, how innovation happens. so, we need more people to help that communication take place in a more seamless weway. >> this is the c-span "the communicators" program.
tim sparapani is an operator for facebook, cecilia kan is a technology reporter for "the washington post." serve tim sparapani led the american civil liberties -- tim sparapani serve the american civil liberties union prior to joining facebook. is your old organization happy with you? >> i hope so. it seems like the mission there was not terribly different from this mission. the goal was to maximize privacy and free speech primarily for folks in the united states. 70% of our users are outside of the united states, but i feel i get to do the same thing. maximizing privacy and free speech in real time with a communications tool. it is not just the domestic populace here, it is a worldwide population. if anything, these two visions
are remarkably complementary. >> going back to the australian example, what is the impetus for this censorship? >> this is not atypical. we see this in the united states occasionally. a bad incident happened, a crime occurred. i have this the linkage to new technology. -- it might have distant linkage to new technology. in this case there was a moment where, unfortunately, a memorial site established on facebook was defaced. now, no company is impervious to hacking attacks from people that want to do despicable things. despite robust security measures, facebook was the victim of a short-term attack.
we do not know why or what the motivation was. once we found out about it, we were able to take it down and repair the damage. of course it became an instant news situation in australia, generating a lot of negative coverage. rather than decry the behavior, they said the technology tool must be the problem, so we must have pre censorship. think about that. if we did that, we would virtually shut down all communications out there. blocking the robust nature of the internet. a free flow of information, and lack of barriers. and we would impose serious ones. this kind of censorship opportunity to be raised in the united states. there will be some crime in the
you told me at one point that many people did change policy settings. what does that say to you? do you think you handle that correctly? >> as someone that went from the aclu to facebook with the goal of increasing privacy, i feel that we had a tremendous success. that privacy transition tool was the first of its kind effort. there has never been a company anywhere that has tried something like this. we wanted to make every one of our users stop and think about privacy at least once before they did anything else on our website. serving out a company with 400 million customers. almost 50% of our users have customized the process.
some of the company's release a little bit of the data. some of the typical customers will added their privacy settings, if there are any. 50% of our users stopped to say that privacy was important and that they would control their own data. something that makes this the greatest corporate privacy effort in history, nothing compares. there was a lot of press reporting at the time suggesting that we would have a major backlash. i think that consumers have shown that it juxtaposes us from other companies.
giving the people tools to control the data, we show that we were on their side, letting them have the experience we wanted them to have. as a result, we saw no drop-off in consumer activity. we saw more people joining the site of our growth rates have not diminished at all. an extraordinary success advancing the ball for personal privacy. >> did those people make their data more open? order date retreat and tried to hide? >> some of them did both, but the great majority set their privacy settings, going from putting no setting in place to actually putting a barrier in place for their data to be shared with other people. as someone who has been a part
of the debate for a long time, i think this says that people understood what was going on, understood the choices, and they chose to actually exercise those tools. i am heartened as a privacy advocate. >> we are just about out of time. very quickly, why is it necessary in your view to have public policy stage directors? >> it is important that the legislative level to have people that can talk to certain late -- serve legislators. there will be moments in some states around the country where unfortunate incidents might occur. the first reaction will be to regulate the internet. the internet has to be not only national standard, but an international standard. hopefully countries around the world will understand.
at the state level, we must make sure that open internet starts at home and that all 50 states are operating under the same rules. we should not have those rules to enforce certain norms on the rest of the country. >> tim sparapani, cecilia kan, thank you both for being on "the communicators." >> my pleasure. >> thank you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2010] >> c-span, our public affairs content is available, and radio, as well as facebook, twitter, and youtube. >> this is c-span. next, chief justice